Union Representation Guide
Your Right To Be Heard Before the
Public Employment Relations Commission

The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) is a neutral agency with authority to oversee collective bargaining laws that appy to most public employeees in Washington State. The following information is for employees seeking to select, change or remove a union. A summary of this information is available in printable format as Representation FAQ.

What Are Representation Rights?
Public employees (other than elected and senior officials) have the right to elect, change, or decertify union representation.
  • If employees elect union representation, an employee-directed organization deals with their employer about their wages, hours, and working conditions.
  • If employees are dissatisfied with their current representation, they can select a different employee-directed organization to represent them.
  • If employees decertify their union representation, their wages, hours, and working conditions will be set by their employer (subject to civil service rules or other policies) and they will deal directly with their employer about any issues. At least one year must pass before another petition can be filed. Employees exercise these rights by groups (bargaining units), not as individuals. You must have the support of your co-workers in your group to make changes.
Who Selects What Union Will Represent Employees?
The employees choose for themselves. Supervisors are placed in separate units from rank-and-file employees. PERC conducts secret-ballot elections where all members of the group have a chance to vote for or against a union. A majority of the votes cast wins. Other unions can be on the ballot if they show the support of 10% of the employees in the group, and PERC will conduct a runoff election, if necessary, between the two choices that receive the highest number of votes.
Does PERC Have Jurisdiction Over My Employment Situation?
You need to determine which state law (if any) covers your employment relationship, and follow that law. PERC administers several chapters of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), covering different groups of public employees:

STATE GOVERNMENT: LOCAL GOVERNMENT: All of these state laws are available from the PERC office, at 360-570-7300, or on PERC's www.perc.wa.gov website. If your employment situation is not on this list, contact PERC for more information.

How Does PERC Process Representation Cases?
Three different chapters of Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rules apply to these cases:

All of those rules are available from the PERC office, at 360-570-7300, or on PERC's www.perc.wa.gov website.
What Happens When a Representation Case Is Filed?
PERC sends a "Notice of Case Filing" to all parties, with name/address information on all parties and the case number. Please use that case number whenever you contact PERC.

The PERC staff makes sure all necessary information is on the petition, and sends all parties a deficiency notice (with a deadline for reply) if anything else is needed.

PERC gets a list of employees from the employer and determines if 30% of the employees in the group support the petition. PERC preserves the confidentiality of those cards.

PERC sends all parties a list of issues and PERC's Representation Coordinator holds a conference (usually by telephone conference call) with all parties (including you if you filed the petition) to go over those issues.
What Issues are Resolved in Representation Cases?
The issues that normally occur in representation cases are:
  • Whether the petition is timely.
  • Whether the group of employees involved can be represented by itself or belongs within some other group.
  • Whether individuals should be excluded as supervisors, or as confidential employees who represent or assist the employer in negotiations with unions
If the parties do not agree on any issue, a PERC Hearing Officer will be assigned to hold a hearing.
What Happens at a Hearing?
A hearing is a formal legal proceeding that resembles a court trial.
  • A Hearing Officer assigned from the PERC staff acts as the judge.
  • A court reporter hired by PERC records the proceedings. Parties that want a copy of the transcript must buy a copy from the court reporter.
  • The parties must provide evidence (through testimony of witnesses and exhibits) on the disputed issues.
  • The rules of evidence used in courts are not strictly applied. The parties usually file written arguments (briefs) after the hearing is closed.
Will PERC Represent me or Provide me With an Attorney?
No. PERC staff members act in a neutral capacity, and can only answer questions about procedures. PERC staff members cannot provide legal advice or take the side of any party.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney. However, you should:
  • Study the statute and rules.
  • Review your claims and evidence.
  • Make your own decision about whether you want or need to hire an attorney to represent you at your own expense.
When and How Will I Be Informed of PERC's Decision?
After the hearing has closed and all written arguments have been filed, PERC will issue a written decision based on the evidence received at the hearing. The time target for issuing decisions is 90 days after the last written argument is filed. The PERC staff cannot provide any information about the content of a decision until it is officially issued.
Can my Union or Employer Retaliate Against Me?
It is illegal for a public employer or a union to retaliate against a public employee who files a petition or gives testimony at a PERC hearing. If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation, contact PERC about filing an unfair labor practice complaint.
If I Have Other Questions, Who Should I Contact?
This pamphlet is designed to provide a general introduction to PERC procedure, and is not intended to provide legal advice on any particular case or issue. If you have questions about PERC procedures not answered by this pamphlet, you can call PERC at 360-570-7300.
What is PERC?
PERC is an independent agency of the State of Washington that is responsible for resolving disputes involving public employers, public employees, and the unions that represent those employees. If you want more information about the agency, visit the PERC website at www.perc.wa.gov.
Who Takes the Lead in Processing Representation Cases?
If you want to be represented by a union, it must handle the process. If you and your group have a union and don't want it to represent you anymore, you will need to handle the process yourselves. You will need to:
  • Gather individual cards signed and dated by at least 30% of the employees in the group, saying they no longer want to be represented by the union.
  • Fill out PERC Form E-1 (available from the PERC office at 360-570-7300, or on the PERC website).
  • File the form and individual cards 90 to 61 days before and existing contract expires (120 to 91 days for state employees), by mailing them to PERC at PO Box 40919, Olympia WA 98504-0919, or deliver them to PERC at 112 Henry St NE, Ste 300, Olympia, WA 98506-4470.
  • Give or send a copy of the petition form (but not the individual cards) to the union and employer involved.
If you and your group want to change unions, the new union you desire will handle the process.

For more information please contact:

Public Employment Relations Commission

US MAIL: PO Box 40919
Olympia, WA 98504-0919

ADDRESS: 112 Henry St NE Ste 300
Olympia, WA 98506-4470

E-MAIL: info@perc.wa.gov
TELEPHONE: (360) 570-7300
FACSIMILE: (360) 570-7334